Thursday, May 31, 2007

Scriptural Holiness

The most recent issue of the Asbury Herald had an article on Scriptural Holiness, one of John Wesley's favorite themes, that caught my eye. In it, the author challenged the readers to allow the scripture to transform who we are into a Christlike being. To that effect, the author suggested that we use Psalm 51 as our daily reading every day for at least one week. Not only should we read it, we should allow the scripture to search us, guide us, rebuke us and comfort us.

Would you join me this week in doing this? Make Psalm 51 your daily reading and read it contemplatively? Let the scripture search your heart and mind, and let the Holy Spirit guide you as you read over David's heartfelt plea in this wonderfully moving section of scripture. Listen to the voice of the Spirit as he speaks to you. Then leave a comment if you feel so inclined.

Psalm 51 (New International Version)

New International Version (NIV)

Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society

Psalm 51
For the director of music. A psalm of David. When the prophet Nathan came to him after David had committed adultery with Bathsheba.
1 Have mercy on me, O God,
according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion
blot out my transgressions.

2 Wash away all my iniquity
and cleanse me from my sin.

3 For I know my transgressions,
and my sin is always before me.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned
and done what is evil in your sight,
so that you are proved right when you speak
and justified when you judge.

5 Surely I was sinful at birth,
sinful from the time my mother conceived me.

6 Surely you desire truth in the inner parts [a] ;
you teach [b] me wisdom in the inmost place.

7 Cleanse me with hyssop, and I will be clean;
wash me, and I will be whiter than snow.

8 Let me hear joy and gladness;
let the bones you have crushed rejoice.

9 Hide your face from my sins
and blot out all my iniquity.

10 Create in me a pure heart, O God,
and renew a steadfast spirit within me.

11 Do not cast me from your presence
or take your Holy Spirit from me.

12 Restore to me the joy of your salvation
and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

13 Then I will teach transgressors your ways,
and sinners will turn back to you.

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God,
the God who saves me,
and my tongue will sing of your righteousness.

15 O Lord, open my lips,
and my mouth will declare your praise.

16 You do not delight in sacrifice, or I would bring it;
you do not take pleasure in burnt offerings.

17 The sacrifices of God are [c] a broken spirit;
a broken and contrite heart,
O God, you will not despise.

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper;
build up the walls of Jerusalem.

19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices,
whole burnt offerings to delight you;
then bulls will be offered on your altar.


  1. Psalm 51:6 The meaning of the Hebrew for this phrase is uncertain.
  2. Psalm 51:6 Or you desired?; / you taught
  3. Psalm 51:17 Or My sacrifice, O God, is

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

The least of these

My daughter Hannah (from whom I have secured permission to write this) is an animal lover. She aspires to be a veterinarian someday, is a Humane Society volunteer and has attended a veterinary camp near Cincinnati. The past few mornings I have her found running in an out of the house with cereal bowls of water for the juvenile birds that may be crippled or just unable to fly. She is trying to rescue them, despite the legion of cats in our neighborhood.

I was chuckling at her as she chased this frightened little blackbird underneath the neighbor's truck before school today. I'm thinking that "this bird has a o% chance of making it and she is going out of her way to rescue him." This despite the horrifying discovery that Bandit, our 16 month old puppy had 4 dead birds in the back yard that he was playing with and tossing in the air. We now know the origin of his bad breath.

I don't want to discourage her tender heart, but there is an element of reality that says "Stop." There is no hope, just let nature take its course and move on. Then God hit me and said "Be grateful I didn't do that."

What a thought. That despite the fact that many on this earth aren't going to make it, He poured tremendous resources into us. He gave his only Son's life for us. And the Holy Spirit has a full-time job helping us live righteous lives as He continues to call the lost to him.

This was a bit of a kick from God to the effect that there are no lost causes in His eyes. Everyone has value, and every life is precious.

I would do well to learn from a tender-hearted little girl. I seem to remember something about "out of the mouths of babes" from somewhere.

Monday, May 28, 2007

Al Gore and I agree on something

Mark this day on your calendar. Al Gore and I agree that the media is banal and focuses on trivial things. That is where our agreement ends. One of the trivial and banal things, IMHO, is Al Gore and his relentless shilling for his books and movie/slide show. The guy who tells us global warming will kill us all is jetting around in private jets and has a house that consumes an enormous amount of energy. All the while he wants us to change the way we live. How much pollution does a Gulsfstream IV put out as it zooms through the atmosphere?

Hypocrisy should be covered, but it is only covered on one side of the political and religious aisle.

Thanks for reaching out to me Al. I appreciate the love.

A somber holiday

Memorial Day has added meaning these past few years since our nation has been at war. Prior to that it was a military holiday and the beginning of the barbecue season for many people. But as our nation continues to fight in Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia, Djibouti, and other points across the globe, I encourage you to take time to pray for those who are fighting the enemy. Pray for their safety and success. Pray for an end to the conflict. And pray for the families they leave behind. God help all of them during this stressful time.

If you want to see a nice tribute to some who have been killed in the current conflagration, you can go here. I must admit it is very moving to read the personal notes written by the friends and family members who submitted the photos.

Friday, May 25, 2007

The cheapest mental health counsel you will ever receive

Stop watching the news. Especially the local news, or what passes for local news in most markets. One of the saddest things I have witnessed in my career is how the local news has become essentially irrelevant other than the weather forecast and occasional sports report. Local news has adopted the cable news motto of "infotainment at the lowest common denominator" and it is truly sickening to watch. Which is why I have stopped watching. Maybe I am a bit of a Luddite, but I get my news from the Detroit News, Wall Street Journal and Monroe Evening News, along with a few internet web sites.

Our local Fox affiliate sent a reporter to Hollywood to cover the American Idol finale, and gave that report as much time as the weather and sports reports. The news division is now shilling for the entertainment side, and it is becoming more obvious. The morning talking head shows talk about the TV shows from the night before, and lead that night's programming. Meanwhile, in our great state of Michigan, we have a $1billion state budget deficit, an imploding housing market, jobs leaving in droves, a feckless governor and a legislature that is unwilling to face the reality that trimming around the edges and accounting gimmicks aren't going to make this go away. We have the 2nd highest gas tax in the country, and the legislature is worried about oil companies gouging. According to an opinion piece in today's Detroit News, the state takes in $7.80 in tax off of a typical gas tank filling, while the oil company profits $2.20. Who is gouging? Yet the media mavens have our attention on the Kodak Theater.

What we see on the news is celebrity gossip, fluff, and the latest body count on the streets from murders, rapes and robberies. I have spoken with TV news producers who tell us this is what their research shows the viewers want. If that is true, then I am truly saddened. Do we really want more "investigative" reporters running around trying to justify their existence? They do a service occasionally with their reporting, but 5 nights per week with three networks leads to some pretty thin stories getting hyped.

I'm looking forward to a vacation. I can't hide my head in the sand. But I don't have to watch the pablum that is being served up under the moniker of 'News." I'm sure I can stay informed some other way without supporting that mess.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Praising God no matter where you are

As you have probably read here I have been working with the guidance of the Holy Spirit on removing the scales on my eyes and looking at the world to see God's handiwork no matter where I am. While I am not going to go to the extreme of trying to exegete a banana as my fellow blogger Bishopman depicted so eloquently here.

What I am referring to is the ability to see God regardless of the situation, location or circumstance. The evidence of God's handiwork is all around us. We need to take a minute and look with eyes that see. God will show himself to us when we honestly seek him.

The video below depicts a young man wandering the streets of a big city praising God, and all the folks around him just ignore him. Plus it's a good David Crowder song.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Getting in the God Groove

The person who lives in right relationship with God does it by embracing what God arranges for him. Doing things for God is the opposite of entering into what God does for you. Habakkuk had it right: "The person who believes God, is set right by God—and that's the real life."
— Galatians 3:11b, TM

That came today in Soul Care, a daily devotional published by the Church of the Nazarene office of Clergy Development. It spoke directly to me as I biked to work on an absolutely glorious morning here in Michigan. We have had 2 spectacular days already this week, and I have been biking whenever possible. It is good for me and saves gas for the 8 mile round-trip.

What I realized over the past two days is how God is working in my life and going ahead of me. My business is good, and recently many things have fallen into place for clients with interviews with major media and audiences they want to reach. For that I am grateful.

As I biked to work this morning I saw a beautifully still river with trees reflecting off of it. I was mallard ducks swimming, gentlemen fishing, older couples walking the bike path, moms and babies in strollers and the usual hustle and bustle of the city. It reminded me that God is the Lord of all things, and the world he made for us is for our pleasure. We are to be stewards, but we are to appreciate what he has given us. I find myself doing that as I bike to work. Praise God for the beauty of the world. Praise Him for all that we have, and all that He has kept away from us. Praise Him for everything.

Rich Mullins had the gift of seeing God in nature. I truly miss him since his death 10 years ago. Look at the lyrics to one of my favorite songs that he wrote. The song is "The Color Green" from CD A Liturgy, A Legacy and A Ragamuffin Band:

"And the moon is a sliver of silver
Like a shaving that fell on the floor of a Carpenter's shop
And every house must have it's builder
And I awoke in the house of God
Where the windows are mornings and evenings
Stretched from the sun
Across the sky north to south
And on my way to early meeting
I heard the rocks crying out
I heard the rocks crying out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise

And the wrens have returned and they're nesting
In the hollow of that oak where his heart once had been
And he lifts up his arms in a blessing for being born again
And the streams are all swollen with winter
Winter unfrozen and free to run away now
And I'm amazed when I remember
Who it was that built this house
And with the rocks I cry out

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green

Be praised for all Your tenderness by these works of Your hands
Suns that rise and rains that fall to bless and bring to life Your land
Look down upon this winter wheat and be glad that You have made
Blue for the sky and the color green that fills these fields with praise"

What a gift he had. The video for that song is below. Just click on the play button in the screen.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The price of Gossip

1 Timothy 5 has some advice: 12 Thus they bring judgment on themselves, because they have broken their first pledge. 13 Besides, they get into the habit of being idle and going about from house to house. And not only do they become idlers, but also gossips and busybodies, saying things they ought not to. Read this story. I find it chastening because I can be prone to this and the Lord is working in my life to show me a better way. As you may know, I believe Gossip and Gluttony are the only two permissible sins in the church. By permissible, I mean things you rarely hear preached about from the pulpit, are allowed to persist in the open, and in many cases have leaders that condone if not participate in them. Imagine if church discipline were handled like this town handled their issues. I'm not advocating that, but it is something for us to think about. It harms the body of Christ and our witness. And it can destroy people's lives and reputations.

Friday, May 18, 2007


The semester is finally over! I have now completed 22 of the 96 hours needed for my Master of Divinity degree at Asbury Theological Seminary. This was a different semester with the classes I took, but I wanted to share with you a neat book from my Christian Doctrine class.

Across the Spectrum does a wonderful job of taking a bunch of issues on which evangelicals may disagree. Some of them include:

Biblical Inspiration
Sovereignty of God
The Lord's Supper
Women in Ministry

and the list goes on. I give the authors credit for presenting all sides fairly without forcing the reader to a conclusion.

If you want to explore some of these issues I encourage you to read this. Each chapter is about 20 pages, and is a quick read. If nothing else, it will make you think and sharpen your arguments. It may even change your mind on some things. You never know.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

Going off the deep end

Did you know Jerry Falwell was a liberal? Me neither. But according to the Westboro (name omitted to avoid besmirching my Calvinist brethren) Church, brother Falwell is deserving of a protest. I realize that I just posted something about criticizing the church, but this bunch is ridiculous. Fred Phelps and his band of hate-mongers are giving all Christians a bad name. Pray for divine intervention to stop this mess.

Some thoughts on fault-finding

I apologize for putting the entire message here, but I can't find this on their website. This is a recent email from Emergent Village that struck a chord with me. I have been a vocal critic of the church and this chastened me some. We do need to fix some things, but we need to make sure that we are not condemning in our critique. I'd like to hear your thoughts on this.
Deep Church

From Jason Clark, co-ordinator of, planting/senior pastor of , and Ph.D Student at Kings College London.

In the world of psychiatry, students study not just the manifestations and causes of mental dysfunction, but the idea of 'wellness,' of what helps the well part of a patient become 'more well.' In the worlds of education, and business, rather than focus on people's weaknesses, there is the move to explore and develop people's strengths. In looking at developing countries,debt relief agencies, look for positive attributes for assessment, instead of previous models that just measured the bad ones.

This doesn't mean you ignore glaring weaknesses and problems inherent to the system you are involved with. What it does mean is your focus stops being 'what is wrong?', and becomes 'what is right?' Back to a medical example, doctors have had to learn that referring to a pathologist, doesn't lead to good health.

And with that in mind, I often wonder if we have made the mistake in our assessments of church, in becoming almost pathological. We look at current forms of church, and church in the past, with an eye to the 'ill health,' the deformations, the things we dislike etc. Then we construct idealisations of church in reaction to this 'sickness' diagnosis. Church be-comes about 'not being,' and we measure who we are by what we don't do, and what we are not. Are we left with any understanding of 'wellness' of the church at all?

In Europe where the church has been almost deracinated (for instance where I live around 1-2% of the population are connected to a local church community), does this focus on what is wrong, or just exacerbate the problem. Does it give us more reasons to avoid the notion of the people of God in any missional sense, with our pessimism about church seemingly insurmountable, and our confidence shattered beyond restoration. Indeed church within the pathological vision might become so bad, that we might see ourselves as post-church to escape the sickness that is church.

How do we avoid the slide into a pathological ecclesiology, whilst attending to the very real problems of church. How do we speak prophetically, idealistically and passionately to the need for church reformation, whilst being practical and pragmatic, without losing the confi-dence towards action? How do we find the best of church through history, to take us for-ward into the future, without a blind naive sentimentalism to the past, whilst on the other hand avoiding the fostering of a negative and bilious cynicism that invalidates everything that has gone before us?

How do we navigate these dilemmas and arrive at a positive and enabling vision of church, that leads us to 'wellness?'

For some of us in the UK, the notion of 'Deep Church,' a phrase coined by C.S.Lewis is providing a mood to direct our reflections and actions to that end. It maybe finds it conjunctive resonance, outside the UK in the 'Deep Ecclessiology' articulated and lived by Brian Mclaren, and the Emergent movement/network/tribe/mode/phenomenon.

Deep Church hopefully values and affirms the many streams of what the Spirit is doing with the church in our times. Maybe this includes amongst many others, the fluid, and emerging forms of church, outside the existing church structures. Then perhaps the 'fresh expressions' of the inherited church as it seeks to experiment with new forms of church outside of itself, but in relationship with it. Then there is the inherited church and existing church that is seeking to renew itself, whilst we then find the streams of church that are trying to preserve traditions and practices in the face of cultural change.

And in all these forms/streams, the Deep Church focus becomes, not about what is wrong and invalid or that which is authorised by existing or new groups, but about the challenge of the shared context we find ourselves in. There is within Deep Church, a desire to re-cover a confidence in the gospel and scripture, along with the accessing of the spiritual re-sources of the historical church in non superficial ways, so that we might align ourselves with the work of the Holy Spirit in forming communities, that are living faithfully in disciple-ship to Jesus, in our contemporary context.

We are not wanting to re-package the past, or be fashion victims of the emerging culture, but rather aspire to an understanding of church embedded in the past, whilst fully engaged in the present. So that within that we might discover and build on what is 'well' with the Church Catholic.

If you want to comment and interact on thisn article, and explore the Deep Church vision, with others from around the world, you can do so at

Jason Clark

24/7 x 10 Prayer

My local church, in cooperation with three other churches in Dundee, is hosting a 24/7 prayer room from May 17-27. If you have a chance to come out, it is located at 120 Tecumseh Street in Dundee. If you have something you would like prayed for, send it to and we will add it to the prayer list. The video clip below gives some background on the 24/7 prayer movement.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Goodbye to Jerry Falwell

Jerry Falwell, Moral Majority founder, Liberty University founder, and pastor of Thomas Road Baptist Church, went on to his eternal reward yesterday. While I often cringed at the comments he made, he was my brother in Christ. There is no doubt in my mind that he sincerely loved his Lord and was doing his best to serve his Savior.

He changed evangelical Christianity with his emphasis on political action, and brought many social issues to the forefront of the political debate. His leadership energized many Christians to rejoin the fray in the electoral and judicial process, and for that we can be grateful. Like all of us he had flaws. But he loved God and lost people. I would do well to emulate those traits.

Rest in peace Brother Falwell. Your Lord awaits you.

Saturday, May 12, 2007


My once proud backyard is in a bit of a shambles. What once was lush green grass and shrubs is now a collection of ground ivy patches, holes dug by the infernal dog, dead spots in grass courtesy of same dog, a path worn through the grass by dog, and bushes that need trimming. And it all seemed to happen so fast.

I think it started a couple summers ago when I was busy with stuff and was painting the house. That consumed most weekends and I just sort of let it go. Then last year came, school interfered with life and the puppy was here. Now, it's a mess and I may wind up nuking large portions of the grass and starting over. I once sprayed most of the yard with Roundup and took a weed torch to anything that survived the Roundup. I had a great lawn after that.

As I was mowing (baling) the back today, I was also thinking about a paper I am writing. It is a "Rule of Life" for my Vocation of Ministry class. Basically it is a set of governing principles for my life. More on that another day.

But one area of emphasis is ongoing spiritual formation. And spiritual neglect can make a mess out of a person in the same way that my neglect of the yard made a mess out of it. It can be as benign as doing good things (painting the house) at the expense of other things. Or it can be as ugly as sloth (choosing to play rather than work in the yard), but either way the result is the same. What was once a beautiful garden is now overgrown with weeds and thorns and requires radical action to fix.

Don't let your life be like my lawn. Do your daily maintenance by praying, reading scripture, visiting the sick, comforting the mourning, and working to right injustices. It will keep the weeds out.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Colored People - DC Talk Style

I have to confess that when DC Talk released their Jesus Freak CD in the 1990s I wasn't a big fan of theirs for several reasons we don't need to get into here. But as I grow older( and hopefully more mature), I truly appreciate what they were doing with that CD. The title track is still played at every Toby Mac concert I have attended, but the song Colored People really grabs me. Part of the attraction is that I like Kevin Max's voice on that song. But take a look at the lyrics:

[1, 1, 1, 1... 2, 2, 2, 2... 3, 3, 3, 3... 4, 4, 4, 4]

Pardon me, your epidermis is showing, sir
I couldn't help but note your shade of melanin
I tip my hat to the colorful arrangement
Cause I see the beauty in the tones of our skin

We've gotta come together
And thank the Maker of us all

We're colored people, and we live in a tainted place
We're colored people, and they call us the human race
We've got a history so full of mistakes
And we are colored people who depend on a Holy Grace

[1, 1, 1, 1... 2, 2, 2, 2... 3, 3, 3, 3... 4, 4, 4, 4]

A piece of canvas is only the beginning for
It takes on character with every loving stroke
This thing of beauty is the passion of an Artist's heart
By God's design, we are a skin kaleidoscope

We've gotta come together,
Aren't we all human after all?

(repeat chorus)

Ignorance has wronged some races
And vengeance is the Lord's
If we aspire to share this space
Repentance is the cure

[1, 1, 1, 1... 2, 2, 2, 2... 3, 3, 3, 3... 4, 4, 4, 4]

Well, just a day in the shoes of a color blind man
Should make it easy for you to see
That these diverse tones do more than cover our bones
As a part of our anatomy

(repeat chorus)

We're colored people, and they call us the human race
[Oh, colored people]
We're colored people, and we all gotta share this space
[Yeah we've got to come together somehow]
We're colored people, and we live in a tainted world
[Red and yellow, black and white]
We're colored people, every man, woman, boy, and girl
[Colored people, colored people, colored people, colored people, yeah]

When I hear that song I feel so sick for the way we have treated people based on their race and ethnicity. God forgive me for my bigotry and hatred toward so many people in my life. As I mature, I look back with sadness at many things I have said and done.

God forgive the church for the racism it has practiced and condoned throughout the years. God help those people to not close their hearts to Christ because of the behavior of the church and the Christians who are its body parts. And God let me be a minister that sees souls and not melanin. The world has had enough of that.

Go buy the Jesus Freak 10th Anniversary CD if you want a good listen. The remixes on the 2nd CD are worth every penny, including Jesus Freak in a minor key.

Monday, May 07, 2007


Do you ever feel sorry for Judas? Sometimes I wonder if he knew what he was doing when he betrayed Christ. He had been with Christ for three years or so, heard him teach, saw the miracles and had the chance to walk with him and learn from the Master.

I often wonder if 30 pieces of silver was really enough to make him betray Jesus. And I wonder if he knew that execution was the price of his betrayal. The account in Matthew 26 seems to give the thought that Jesus told them that he was going to be crucified THEN Judas hatched his plan. Maybe I've been to easy on Judas. Maybe he really did want Jesus to die. Maybe he thought that would bring about the violent revolution to overthrow Rome and free Israel from their pagan oppressors. We will never know what he thought. But I do feel sorry for him, in an odd sort of way.

Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Joining or becoming?

My friend Kurt Stevens, over at Kurt's Korner had a great post on What The Marines Taught Me About Christianity Click on it and enjoy.

I found his discussion the distinction between joining something and becoming something to be very insightful. It is a subtle distinction, but a crucial one with Christianity. We need to become something new, to be transformed by the renewing of our mind. We aren't joining a club. We are becoming like Christ. The mindset is very different.

He said it much better than I can. Go read it for yourself.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

A lesson in humility

No, I didn't have a foot-washing service. But I did have a positive lesson in humility over the weekend. For those who do not know I recently received my district minister's license from the Eastern Michigan District of the Church of the Nazarene. It is a significant step in my call to ordained ministry, and I am humbled by the honor and the office.

Last Sunday I had the privilege to preach in a friend's church so he could take the day off. And what was truly humbling was how the Holy Spirit took what I said and amplified it to speak directly to several persons in the congregation about situations in their life. It certainly wasn't my eloquence or fiery delivery (neither of which happened) but rather the Spirit of God taking the text and illustrations and showing them how God can move in areas of their lives where they are struggling right now. For some it was encouragement. For others is was a challenge. And for some it was an answer to prayer.

It is my first experience with how God takes the stuff that comes out of my mouth and uses it to build his kingdom. It's not me, it is clearly him. And I pray that I never think it is about me. I have a role to play in diligently preparing and praying, but He does the true work in their hearts. And if I ever get too big for my britches, I just have to remember that God also spoke through a donkey to Balaam.